Ashcroft preps for a new era |

Ashcroft preps for a new era

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” A redevelopment project is expected to get under way next year at the Ashcroft Ski Touring center and the Pine Creek Cookhouse restaurant, both located about 11 miles south of Aspen at the upper end of Castle Creek.

Owner John Wilcox said this week he is preparing to expand and upgrade the facilities at the touring center, which covers some 35 kilometers of cross-country skiing trails on U.S. Forest Service lands. He also plans to sell the touring center and the restaurant to an unidentified resort/hospitality company.

Wilcox recently won final approval from the Forest Service to build a new “log arrival center” to replace the aging, funky King Cabin. He also has approval to build three caretaker cabins, or employee housing units, at the entrance to the valley, which is a hilly, wooded area next to the historic mining ghost town of Ashcroft.

Wilcox has had Pitkin County’s approval for his proposals for several years, after passage of a master planning document for the area, and the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will consider extending those approvals on Dec. 17.

“It’s going to really change the entrance to the valley,” Wilcox said of his plans, which include more parking space near the new arrival center, an 1,800-square-foot, one-story log building with indoor plumbing and toilets. The building will replace the aging outhouse that has been in use for decades.

In the winter, he said, the new center will serve as the “base camp” for skiing, snowshoeing and sleigh riding, and will boast a retail shop offering an expanded selection of outdoor gear along with equipment rental and lessons.

In the summer, Wilcox said, the center will offer guided hikes, bicycling and fishing excursions, and an information desk staffed by the Aspen Historical Society for visitors to the historic ghost town.

Planner Suzanne Wolff is handling Wilcox’s request to be given until next year to fulfill his obligation to provide new employee housing at the complex, which will include a three-bedroom unit adjacent to the Pine Creek Cookhouse and two one-bedroom units near the King Cabin.

The three units were to have been built by Dec. 31, but Wilcox has been delayed by a lack of permits from the Forest Service. Two other units already have been built on a nearby private parcel of land, known as the Montezuma Millsite, according to a memo from Wolff to the BOCC.

Two cabins on a parcel of land known as the Ryan Parcel, which is soon to be transferred to the Forest Service, have been used as employee housing in the past. But Wolff said that the Forest Service is planning to demolish the cabins. Wilcox has asked to be allowed to use the two Ryan cabins for housing until they are demolished, but that request has yet to be granted.

According to Wolff’s memo, Wilcox also is interested in moving the two Ryan cabins to a site near the King Cabin for continued use as affordable housing, but the Forest Service has not responded to the idea.

The county’s planning staff is recommending that Wilcox’s request be granted.

And Wilcox, 64, said he is looking forward to finding someone else to run the center and the restaurant as soon as possible.

“It’s time to try to find another generation to take it over,” he said, noting that his oldest son just turned 15 and is not ready to take on the responsibility of running the business.

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